Gun Runner gets serious
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Gun Runner was among a handful of horses putting in final works at Oaklawn Park on Monday for a rich holiday card on Presidents Day, breezing a bullet five furlongs in 59.80 seconds. Gun Runner is set to launch his season in the Grade 3, $500,000 Razorback Handicap, while some others drilling Monday were prepping for the Grade 3, $500,000 Southwest.
Gun Runner last raced Nov. 25, winning the Grade 1 Clark Handicap by 2 3/4 lengths and pushing his earnings to more than $2 million. The win capped an outstanding 3-yearold season for Gun Runner, who won the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby before finishing third in both the Kentucky Derby and Travers.
“I think he’s doing extremely well, and it’s time for him to get started,” said Steve Asmussen, who trains Gun Runner for Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm.
With temperatures in the 50s and on a fast track, Gun Runner worked by himself in the second set Monday. Arkansas state clocker Jim Hamilton caught Gun Runner in fractions of 12.80 seconds for his opening eighth of a mile, 25.20 for the first quarter, 37.60 for threeeighths, and galloping out six furlongs in 1:11.80. Hamilton had Gun Runner’s final quarter in 22.20.
“We let him do something today,” Asmussen said. “He’s a week out from the race. He’s going up against older horses that have been running. We’ve got to hit the ground running.”
Florent Geroux has the mount in the Razorback, according to Asmussen.
Also working Monday for the Razorback was Shotgun Kowboy, a Grade 3 winner and earner of $800,000 who worked a half-mile by himself in 48.80. He is coming off an allowance win at Oaklawn.
The Razorback closed with 31 nominations. The weights for the race were to be released Wednesday, according to Oaklawn racing secretary Pat Pope. Entries for the Razorback and the Southwest will be taken Friday.
Pope said Oaklawn will put on a 10-race card next Monday for Presidents Day. The track will also have a 10-race card Saturday, topped by the Grade 3, $150,000 Bayakoa.
Several work for Southwest
Lookin At Lee, who in his last start was fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 5 at Santa Anita, was among a handful of probables for the Southwest Stakes to work at Oaklawn on Monday. The Southwest will be run here on Presidents Day next Monday.
Lookin At Lee went a halfmile in 50.20, with clockers getting his final quarter in 23.80 and catching him galloping out five-eighths in 1:02.60.
Petrov, who was second in last month’s $150,000 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn, went in company with another horse, covering five-eighths in 1:00. Oaklawn clockers had his final quarter in 22.80 and had him galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.
Chief Know It All, an allowance winner who is possible for the Southwest, went a half-mile in company in 48.80 seconds, with clockers getting his final quarter in 23.40 and catching him galloping out five-eighths in 1:01.20.
Rowdy the Warrior, who was third in the Smarty Jones, went a half-mile by himself in 49.40, with a final quarter in 23.20. Trainer Donnie Von Hemel said Rowdy the Warrior is probable for the Southwest.
“He just went an easy half, just a nice little half,” said Von Hemel.
Vazquez to serve 3-day ban
Jockey Ramon Vazquez, who is tied atop the Oaklawn standings with Ricardo Santana Jr., will begin a three-day suspension Saturday for a riding infraction, according to a stewards’ ruling.
Vazquez had appealed the suspension, which was for “making contact with his hand to the head of a rival horse” on Jan. 21, the stewards said. The Arkansas Racing Commission heard his case Saturday and upheld the decision of the stewards. An attorney for Vazquez said the rider would not appeal to the courts. Vazquez has led the standings for much of the meet and has 22 wins from 89 starts heading into Thursday’s card.
Also at the commission meeting, the panel unanimously passed an emergency rule concerning the total dissolved carbon dioxide threshold level, which will now be 37.0 millimoles per liter of blood plasma in all cases. Some rules provided for higher threshold levels for horses who compete on Lasix. The change brings Arkansas in line with national standards, according to testimony given at the meeting Saturday. The rule goes into effect immediately, according to commission attorney Byron Freeland.
The panel on Saturday also welcomed a new commissioner, Butch Rice, who is an owner, breeder, and the president of Stallion Transportation Group. Rice said his appointment is for five years.
◗ Jockey Alex Birzer enters Thursday’s card with 2,995 Thoroughbred wins in North America.
Gun Runner will make his first start of 2017 in the Razorback.